Last weekend, the Screaming Females made yet another homecoming to WFMU’s Monty Hall in Jersey City. This is the second consecutive year the Screaming Females have played this venue, and tickets for both Friday and Saturday night were sold out weeks before the show. WFMU (91.1 FM) is a listener-supported, non-commercial radio station that has been on the air since 1958. As a station, WFMU stands as a true bastion for unique and creative expression, allowing each DJ their own individuality without any restrictive, station-wide playlist or guidelines. They are the alternative beyond alternative.
I got tickets for both nights because I don’t willingly pass up the opportunity to ever see the Screaming Females play a show. Since the inception of N.J. Racket, this has been the fifth time I have covered a performance, and I’m not getting tired of it yet, so I hope you’re not either. Of course you’re not.
King Mike and Jarrett Dougherty were working the merch table when we walked in. This is common for them, but it’s something that always impresses me when I see them. Probably the biggest New Jersey indie band on the scene right now, selling out shows all over the country, selling out back to back nights when they come home, remains grounded enough to still work the merch table before the show, taking the time to talk to fans, and occasionally even talking them out of buying merch.
Morristown’s Spowder was booked as the opener on Friday night. You wouldn’t know it by looking at them, but this is a seriously badass, rocking group. They took the stage and immediately started thrashing. The music was loud and fast and the sold-out crowd was already jumping around. You don’t typically see an opening band win over a crowd this quickly, but most opening bands don’t have the capacity to rip open a can of whoop-ass like Spowder. Frontman Declan’s raw intensity is gripping and keeps you engaged in every note and every lyric of the performance, but while I was incredibly entertained, I was also genuinely concerned for the man’s safety. I’ve never seen veins bulge in a person’s neck or someone contort their face the way he did with every scream. He was banging his head so hard I was afraid it was gonna fall off. I kept my cell phone in hand just in case the paramedics had to be called, but luckily Spowder escaped their set without severe injury.
When the Spowder set did come to an end, the crowd gave them the type of ovation Donald Trump claims to get whenever he walks into a room, only in this instance there was sincere gratification. The audience called for an encore (yes, an encore from the opening band, because they were that goddamn good), but Spowder humbly declined. That is, until King Mike told them to get back on stage and give the people what they wanted.
The Screaming Females opened their weekend with one of their most popular songs, “It All Means Nothing,” and Marissa started ripping into solos almost immediately. After all, that’s what the people came to see. Her ability is truly unique. It’s not that she can play faster or with better technique; it’s that her playing is so lyrical, even in small spaces. She does more with a two-beat fill between lines of lyrics than most guitarists can do with a seven-minute solo. Playing live, she finds so many creative ways to open up and expand these songs, elevating them well beyond anything recorded in the studio.
Every Screaming Females show I see feels special. In a way, I didn’t feel like I deserved to be experiencing it, up close and personal, for only $15. I couldn’t help thinking back to when I was eleven years old. My mother had this giraffe statue she kept near the window in the living room, and one day I accidentally broke it because I was playing with a tennis ball in the house. She wasn’t mad, just disappointed, but it’s something I’ve always felt bad about. Anyway, point is, I’m a bad person and I’ve done too many shitty things to have been standing front row at WFMU’s Monty Hall to see Marissa Paternoster shredding pure magic two nights in a row.
It should also be recognized that Baby Teeth, the band’s first of six full-length albums, was released about ten years ago. The Screaming Females have a pretty substantial music catalog, and while their newest album, Rose Mountain, was (deservedly) received very well, they manage to avoid only playing their newest material, or only playing their hits. I’ve seen them perform several times in the past few months. Multiple times, I believe, on the same tour, and now two nights in a row. I don’t exactly keep a list of each song they play, but I know that each show is different. I don’t think there is a single song that they’ve played at all five of the shows N.J. Racket’s covered, and that should serve as an indicator of how much each individual performance means to this band. While the growth they’ve made as a band is evident from listening to “The Bearded Lady” and “Hopeless,” this is still a band that respects their roots and where they came from.
After Friday night’s show, I decided not to go to the Saturday night show with the intent of covering it. I had already taken pages of notes and Stoppay had already taken about five hundred pictures (and the thirty that aren’t blurry are posted below), so I wanted to take the opportunity to chill out and really let myself enjoy the show for a change (because what I do is so incredibly difficult). The Screaming Females, on the other hand, absolutely did not take it easy Saturday night, and played possibly an even better set than they did the night before. Again, all the respect in the world to them for showing up two nights in a row and fucking bringing it.
Obviously, they were called for an encore again on Saturday, because of course they were, but they surprised the crowd by playing a special set with Saturday’s opening band, Wild Rice. The collaboration was so cool to experience and reminded me of the Screaming Females’ recording of “Because the Night” with Garbage: the established band taking the younger band under their wing, supporting and promoting them.
My Screaming Females fandom isn’t just due to the music, regardless of how face-meltingly disgusting it may be. This band actually gives a shit about their fans, about each and every show, about their fellow artists, about the scene, about where they came from, about everything that we as fans hold sacred, and they give it back to us at every opportunity. N.J. Racket has written about five Screaming Females shows in about as many months and I’m sure as hell looking forward to writing about the next five.
Adam gave man-birth to N.J. Racket and is as close to an "editor-in-chief" the site has. He's a god awful photographer.